CONCORD, N.C. – Chase Elliott continued his road course excellence on Sunday by taming the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL for the second-straight season.
Elliott, who has been nearly unbeatable on road courses since scoring his first NASCAR Cup Series victory at Watkins Glen Int’l in 2018, controlled the later stages of the Bank of America ROVAL 400 after taking the lead for the final time on lap 92.
“I feel like road courses have been fortunate to us the last few trips, but I feel like we just try to get a little better every time and tweak on the small things,” said Elliott, who has now won the last four consecutive NASCAR Cup Series races to be held on road courses. “I feel like I tweaked on some small things and got a little better than what I was here last year.”
The race served as an elimination race in the second round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer were eliminated from championship contention.
Much like last year when Elliott ran nose first into the turn one tire barrier while leading, Elliott’s road to victory lane on Sunday was not a walk in the park. At the start of the final stage on lap 54 Elliott dropped out of line and came down pit road after reporting a loose left-front wheel.
Elliott returned to the track at the tail of the lead lap and would have to work his way back up through the field if he hoped to win on the ROVAL again.
“I was just focused on trying to move forward. I felt like our car was driving well. It was certainly a setback,” Elliott said. “It doesn’t matter whose fault it is, the end result is a setback.”
Suffice it to say Elliott was up to the challenge.
After a few more caution periods and a series of pit stops, Elliott had worked his way back up to 11th for a restart on lap 73. Within a few laps after the restart Elliott had gone from 11th to fifth and was closing in on the lead group of cars, which at the time included Ryan Preece, Alex Bowman, Joey Logano and Erik Jones.
Elliott soon dispatched Jones and Logano and quickly closed on the tail of Bowman, who was trying his best to find a way around Preece. Bowman made his for the lead on lap 82, with Elliott following him around Preece to take second.
Two laps later Elliott was in the lead after he moved around Bowman through turns five and six in the infield portion of the course. The caution would then wave on lap 87 for a big piece of debris in turn four, setting up the final round of pit stops.
Elliott brought most of the field down pit road, with Busch among five that opted not to pit. Elliott restarted sixth and was up to fourth by the time the field got to turn eight. At the front, Erik Jones moved around Busch for the lead and Elliott also quickly moved around him for second a few moments later.
On lap 92 Elliott made the final pass for the lead, moving around Bowman through turn eight. The final caution flag of the race would wave on lap 99 when Brennan Poole stalled on track, but Elliott was unfazed during the ensuing restart.
Elliott promptly pulled away from the field when the race resumed with 10 laps left, eventually pulling away and crossing the finish line nearly four seconds ahead of runner-up Joey Logano.
“It’s always special to win here at Charlotte with the shop being right across the street,” said Elliott. “I appreciate all the effort there. The best way to get into the next round is to win and so hopefully we can do something with it.”
Logano said Elliott had, without question, the best car on Sunday afternoon and there was little that could be done to challenge him during the final laps.
“We won our league because no one was beating that other car (Elliott),” Logano said. “They’re light years ahead of us when it comes to the road course, I mean everybody even their teammates. I can’t really put my finger on it. I got a good look of what it was and watched him cruise around not even trying and he would keep on driving away from me.”
Erik Jones earned his fourth top-five in the last six races with a third-place finish, followed by Kurt Busch and stage two winner Ryan Blaney.
With four races left in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, eight drivers remain in contention for the series championship. They are Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Elliott, Logano, Bowman, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr.
Sunday’s race began in a bit of historic manner, with NASCAR declaring the event a wet race after morning and early afternoon storms soaked the track.
Teams bolted rain tires onto the cars and the field battled on a wet track for most of the first stage, but the track was mostly dry by the end of the first stage. Ty Dillon, who was among the first to switch to slick tires as the surface dried, won the first stage as a result. He ended the day 23rd.
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